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Tracking reveals how far cats travel

The secret lives of wandering cats have been revealed by a Domestic Cat Tracking Project coordinated by Central Tablelands Local Land Services and Orange City Council.

GPS motion sensing devices were attached to sixteen domestic cats in and around the city of Orange to track their every movement for up to 11 days.

The citizen science project funded through the Commonwealth’s National Landcare Program, was designed to educate cat owners and promote awareness of the surprisingly large distances domestic cats can roam if they’re given free access to the outdoors.

According to Senior Land Services Officer, Tim Nalder, the results shocked some owners.

"A lot of people will tell you their cat just lies around the house, that it doesn't go anywhere,” reported Tim.

“However the tracking data showed many cats were far more active than their owners thought was possible. One cat travelled up to 3kms away and the owner had no idea.”

"If you look at some of the tracks recorded by the GPS, it's amazing how many streets some cats crossed every day and how many different back yards they visited," said Mr Nalder.

"Most of the cats regularly roamed up to one or two blocks from their homes and many wandered half a kilometre away on a daily basis.”

“When the results were revealed most of the cat owners who participated indicated they would now restrict the time their cats were allowed outside with plans to keep their cat indoors at night and to cat proof their yards so their pets couldn’t escape,” said Tim.

Cats are a very important companion animal, however Orange City Council’s Companion Animals Committee Chair, Councillor Neil Jones, would like to see their movement restricted to the house, the backyard or a cat enclosure.

“We’re hoping this research will encourage more cat owners to look at the options available to keep their pets from roaming to reduce their impact on native wildlife,” said Cr Jones.

“It’s also important to protect pet cats from traffic accidents and fights with other cats, and also exposure to feline AIDS and other infections.”

The Cat Tracker project is supported by funding from the Australian Government through the National Landcare Program.

Central Tablelands Local Land Services is currently conducting a similar cat tracking project in Mudgee, with plans for further cat surveys across the Central Tablelands.

To find out more about the project contact Colleen Farrow on 6363 7874 at Central Tablelands Local Land Services.

Media contact:  Jane Hogan - 6333 2305 or 0417 166 479   Email: jane.hogan@lls.nsw.gov.au